London in the Snow

Judging from the newspaper headlines this morning, the UK is blanketed in both literal and metaphoric snow. There is a lot of the white stuff; the western county of Devon is apparently stuggling under many centimetres of the stuff, a lot even for a seasoned Canadian, but more interesting is the snow job that is going on in the House of Commons.

Alistair Campbell, formerly Tony Blair’s press supremo is answering questions concerning the British invasion of Iraq. The ability to evade the truth so absolutely ism, of course, a skill that is extensively honed in political life, but the level to which Mr. Campbell has elevated this art is eye-watering.

It is all good fun now, I suppose, unless you happen to be one of the families who lost loved ones in the war, but the re-writing of such recent history is extraordinary; fortunately, nobody seems to believe him.

At least not those who I overheard on the bus this morning and with the blanket of snow that London received overnight, the ten-minute bus ride stretched to forty, and I had plenty of time to earwig on a number of interestingly dull conversations. The gist of many was that they loved the snow three weeks ago, but the novelty has worn off; as it is only January 13th, the winter hasn’t, and I would suspect that there is more to come.

There are a lot of articles of the “Kids today don’t know cold! I remember in the 1950s” and even the one I liked the best, the “the world has entered a period of protracted cooling”. Really, the speed at which we leap from problem to problem, ignited by the kindling of daily journalism is peculiar.

But I digress; it is good to be in London again, albeit only a week since I left. It is a great city, and one that is blessed with a superb transportation system, whatever its detractors might say. It is efficient, reasonably priced and heavily used. It makes living in any part of the city possible, and whisks visitors around with speed and ease.

I have two favourite London sightseeing days, neither of which I have time to do this afternoon, but worth mentioning nonetheless.

The first is to the East; take the tube from wherever you happen to be to Tower Hill and wander up to the street level (a side trip into the Tower of London if you feel so inclined, or simply a picture) and cross to the adjacent Tower Gateway station. There you will take a train to Island Gardens. This driverless train of the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) is great, and meanders through the fabulous development of Canary Wharf and the new reclaimed Docklands.

At Island Gardens you cross the road to the bank of the Thames, and enjoy a view of this great river from the rather peaceful garden on the bank. There is a foot tunnel, originally built in 1902, that will take you under the river to Greenwich on the south bank, and as you walk through it, notice the repair work at the Docklands end; it was struck by a German bomb in the war, and although I can’t possibly imagine how they could repair a flooded tunnel, they did, and you will remain perfectly dry as you walk under the Thames.

Greenwich is a marvel, a Georgian town, only slightly sullied by the detritus of contemporary signage, and home to the National Maritime Museum, which in turn houses the Prime Meridian. The museum is really interesting, and the meridian itself fun to play at! Britain’s maritime history is long and not entirely glorious. The museum has enough exhibits, stories and trivia to keep anyone busy, and its grounds, in the right weather, are terrific, and a perfect place to enjoy a picnic for those minded to outdoor eating.

Alternatively, finding lunch in Greenwich is easy, and there are restaurants of every stripe and to fit every budget.

Later on, return to London using the river service to Westminster, about a ninety-minute trip, offering a great view of the city and its remarkable river life. From Westminster, of course, you are in the heart of the action, and only a short walk from virtually everything.
for the rest of the year. There are different companies that offer the journey, both Thames River Service and Crown River Cruises offer good sailings, but be sure to check their timing and book your return when you arrive in Greenwich, if not before.

You can, of course, do this circuit in reverse! Just remember that the river boat services operate a full schdule between April and November, and a more limited one in and in the other months you would head back to London by train or on a very dull bus ride.

Tomorrow, the Borough Market, and a brilliant walk.